"Could be Worse, Could be Green"

photo: la corona terrace, marilyn, charles

Today's traditional huge group shot posed on the club's terrace lacks only the 'huge group.'

Hoboken Quashed As 'City of the Week'

Paris:- Thursday, 29. March 2001:- Now that we are firmly in the grips of spring the weather has settled down to being what it has been for weeks - holding on with its tight little fingers to the lingers of winter. Rain is on the hour every fifteen minutes.

This is no great hardship. I am, like most other people, waterproof. Besides, I ride to the club in the underground safety of the métro - right under the flooded Seine.

Speaking of the métro - it and Paris' buses are running today. But nothing else on public wheels in France is, and even Paris' RER wheels run by the SNCF are not running either. Paris is a small tropical island of public transport in a mean sea of stranded commuters.

The strike is so successful that some unions will run a replay of it tomorrow. There is nothing like a successful country-wide strike to add a bit of tonic to life in France, so long as it doesn't affect Parisians.

Strangely, the club's area of the club's café La Corona is almost without civilian non-members. The 'Waiter of the Week' Patrick hustles them off and clears the decks for the hordes of newphoto: charles' goodies members I expect to arrive. I set up the books with the meeting numbers and the date, and wait.

But oh ho, not for long! Marilyn Burke and Charles Eitel arrive together and settle in to wait for new members with me. Charles tosses out the first ball with, "Paris can't have the Olympics because Air France will be on strike."

Charles shows his cooking treasures, imported to order by Marilyn.

"In 2008?" I ask. Strike warnings as long-range as this one are rare. Marilyn and Charles get tangled up ordering pots of wine, with Marilyn narrowly escaping getting a big one.

She wants to know why people come to the club too. This is not as membership-threatening as it sounds, because she really does wonder why people with only five days in Paris would want to sit around for a couple of hours watching her and Charles drink pots of red wine.

The mood is strange. Charles wants to know why Marilyn has 'Chinese eyes.' Marilyn doesn't know and Charles says, "Your eyes are lovely" - partly because he knows his wife isn't going to read this.

His wife immediately calls him on his porti-phone and tells him to stop complimenting club members' eyes. This is embarrassing and he changes the subject by asking, "What's the 'City of the Week?'"

Marilyn says it should be Hoboken, because, "It was nice 50 or 60 years ago," - before yuppies moved in, she adds. Frank Sinatra's hometown of Weehawken is admiredphoto: marilyn too, but he is not a club member yet.

This leads into a discussion of all the movies that have been made in Jersey lately with Marilyn capping it with, "And you think I come from a schmuck place!"

Marilyn's eyes are caused by laughing a lot. There is no cure for it.

While we are talking about fondly-remembered club members who are not present today, Charles confirms that he really does intend to go to cooking school in Paris.

"To learn to make cheese sandwiches?" Marilyn asks. With this Charles shows me the ready-made food mixes Marilyn has brought him from across the sea. He has been carrying them in a plastic bag, wrapped in newspapers, so nobody in Paris will notice that he has these politically incorrect food 'goodies.'

"He emailed me and asked for them," Marilyn explains. Charles says he will make this stuff for us if we don't tell his cooking secret to anybody.

What has been a pleasant, quiet and really friendly but dull meeting suddenly gets its first real 'first' at 16:30 when Frank Watson staggers up to the club area, laden with hanging bags, a suitcase and a camera stand only slightly smaller than a telephone pole.

Frank arrived in Paris two and a half hours earlier and discovered the transport strike. But club day is club day and if you've come all the way from Uppsala in Sweden, you'll walk all the way from Roissy if you have to if you intend to be a true club member, like Frank does.

Frank, I would like to point out, is also a rare club member who emailed first to say he is coming to a meeting - today's in fact - and actually comes. I forgot all about his email, just like I forget about all emails from ordinary people and club members whophoto: frank's entry say they are coming, on account of overbooking.

Frank's dramatic arrival - unfocused.

Thus, Frank scores two major 'firsts.' He's here despite his email and he's brought his uitcase, making it the 'Suitcase of the Week,' which is a 'first' as I've already pointed out.


Continued on page 2...
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